Finding accurate and timely information on international markets can sometimes feel like a daunting task. Last month we had the pleasure of attending The Markets conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Developed in partnership with Publishing Perspectives and taking place on the eve of the publishing industry’s largest trade event, The Markets distills many major international publishing trends and imparts up-to-the-minute information on markets around the globe. This year’s edition provided real-world examples of publishing innovation across various international markets, focusing on fresh ideas from young publishing talent, new platforms and methods for reaching readers, and the importance of finding the right content for the right audiences and formats.
The sessions that followed the popular keynote reflected many of these points. Over the next weeks, we will be providing a breakdown of some of the key sessions from the day.
Growth and Diversity in International Markets
The conference’s keynote speech by Charlie Redmayne, CEO, Harper Collins, UK, set the tone of measured excitement and touched on many of the themes that would later be addressed by the other presenters. Redmayne underlined the resilience of the printed book and its ability to survive alongside formats that threatened to overtake it, such as the ebook and, more recently, the audiobook. Defying predictions of the traditional book’s demise, Redmayne suggested that the physical book has never gone away but has rather experienced an “arrested decline.”
While his assessment of publishing in the UK was generally positive—growth in ebooks and physical books sustained, growth in audio book increasing, and content reaching audiences through various other electronic means—Redmayne was also prescriptive in his speech, reminding audience members that the job of modern publishers is to get their authors published on as many platforms as possible (and ensure that authors get paid). He offered the following advice for publishers looking for ways to navigate the current publishing environment:
- Identify and adopt emerging and international trends, like the adult colouring book trend that began in France and became a huge international hit.
- Work better with the traditional retail sector and emerging retailers.
- Make your “concept” available on as many platforms as possible—for example, it is useful to think of digital audio consumption as being more like online music consumption rather than as cannibalizing digital or traditional books.
- Embrace a culture of experimentation and innovation, including new business models with many partners or pathways to market, e.g., subscription models.
- Understand the consumer and tailor content to increasingly global audiences. There are more people reading than ever before in human history, providing an opportunity for multiple or global rights packages and the ability to deliver content on a global scale.
The selection of presenters and market highlights at this year’s conference underscored the diversity of global publishing and the myriad ways in which publishers are promoting their titles and authors.
Of particular note was the presentation on the book market in Georgia by Gvantsa Jobava, Georgian Publishers and Booksellers Association and Head of the Publishing Program of the Georgia Guest of Honour at the Frankfurter Buchmesse 2018 project. As in her webinar for Livres Canada Books, Jobava described Georgia’s small but vibrant publishing scene. With 100 registered publishing houses and one major bookstore chain, Biblusi, Jobava explained that Facebook (more so than Twitter or other platforms) is key to marketing Georgian authors. Jobava also described the many channels through which books are promoted in Georgia, including in the public transport system, at music festivals and local book fairs and book days, as well as through book giveaways organized with banks and the postal service. Some of the more innovative revenue models Jobava described were the telemarketing of books; outdoor markets in private companies, public institutions, schools, etc. where books are sold to employees and students at a discount; and the “50 books to read before you die” campaign paired with a very popular newspaper in which readers would receive books at a substantial discount weeks before they appeared in retail stores if bought with the newspaper.
Similarly, the “Improving Your Bottom Line” panellists shared insights on areas of growth in selected international markets, as well as new trends for increasing revenue. André Breedt of Nielsen Book Research stressed that 2018 has seen growth in book sales worldwide, noting that growth often occurs across different genres in different markets. Growth in India’s book sales, for example, was largely in the sale of non-fiction titles, whereas the largest area of growth in Australia and New Zealand was in children’s literature. According to the Nielsen research, growth in the UK market was also quite healthy, with more than half of fiction book sales in ebooks.
Andrew Albanese of Publishers Weekly echoed Redmayne’s point that the arrested decline of print books is no small feat given the competition traditional books face from the panoply of media formats available to today’s consumers. Albanese pointed to traditional publishing’s continued strength in the US as evidenced by the trend in political and non-fiction books. The decline in fiction sales (16 percent over 5 years) has in many ways been offset by the 35% increase in non-fiction. Another area of growth noted by Albanese was in the realm of self-publishing which, as we will see our last instalment of The Markets blog posts, is becoming a significant source of literary content.
Similarly, Jiang Yanping of Open Book in China pointed out that children’s books are the biggest sellers in the Chinese market. Jiang described ways in which Chinese publishers (both private and state-owned) have been finding new ways to reach readers, including one model in which publishers of knitting and sewing books also started selling sewing machines, and another model in which publishers of tourism books would work with local residents of tourist areas as a way of giving them greater control over content and the creation of multiple related services.
Despite the news of growth (or at least stability) in major English-language markets, recent research on German book consumers can perhaps be read as the canary in the coal mine of the current publishing environment. A recent survey on the German book market—long considered a bastion of book buying—commissioned by the German Publishing Association revealed that the market lost almost 7 million book buyers over the last few years. One of the study’s key findings was that the good sales numbers that the industry had been reporting were based on increased book prices, which inadvertently concealed the downturn in sales. Using focus groups and consumer panels to find out why the number of book buyers had diminished so much, researchers found that German consumers had less time to read books: little time to find a relevant title in bookstores or online, and time available for consuming content was used on other platforms. Even though books are still well loved, time is increasingly spent consuming other sorts of content and many of the study participants reported a sense of loss and regret for not having enough time to read books.
Although these findings are worrisome, Kyra Dreher of the German Publishing Association assured that a clear way forward for publishers and book buyers in her country is to provide better “orientation” to readers about titles of interest and, therefore, make discoverability a key area of focus.
In our next installment on The Markets, we focus on this issue of discoverability and some recent examples of how publishers and other content creators are using new platforms and models to make titles more easily available to a wider range of readers. Interested in finding out more about any of the markets covered in this blog post? Check out the international market guides on our website!